Accolades

Tracey Conti named chair of family medicine department

Tracey Conti has been appointed chair of the School of Medicine’s Department of Family Medicine.

Conti began her new position on Nov. 1, 2021. She has served many leadership roles within the department over the past 20 years and also directs the family medicine residency program at UPMC McKeesport and serves as executive vice chair of the department.

Conti has been recognized for her clinical contributions, which include being named a Pittsburgh Top Doctor and a Pittsburgh Top Black Doctor. She also has been recognized for her leadership with the Mon Valley Women of Achievement award, and most recently the UPMC Physician Excellence Award — Excellence in Leadership. She holds leadership roles within the hospital community and currently serves as the board chair of the Pennsylvania Academy of Family Physicians.

Jill Sarada named director of Falk Laboratory School

Jill Sarada (A&S ’93, Education ’94G) has been named the new director of Falk Laboratory School, a K-8 institution affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh School of Education.

Sarada has worked at Falk for 26 years, beginning as a student-teacher. As director, she will be responsible for leading with strategic vision, fostering academic excellence, strengthening Falk’s overall community and ensuring Falk’s financial future.

Sarada’s vision for education includes promoting a wide variety of partnerships and collaborations between the school, the Pittsburgh community and beyond. Guided by the principles of progressive education, she believes in learning experiences that are rooted in identity, culture and development. Her term begins July 1, 2022. 

Jeff Suzik, who has been director of of the school since 2014, will leave his position effective June 30 to become director of Cranbrook Schools, in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.

Retired instructional designer Frey honored for contributions to online learning

Barbara Frey, an instructional designer who retired from the University Center for Teaching and Learning in 2020 after nearly two decades of work, earned the Quality Matters Directors' Award for Exceptional Service during a Nov. 3 virtual conference for her contributions to quality assurance efforts with online and/or blended education at institutions and for learners.

“Over the past 15 years, I’ve volunteered many hours to promoting and improving online learning through Quality Matters,” Frey said.  “I am honored and touched by this award.”

Quality Matters is a leader in quality assurance for online education. In the early 2000s, it became one of the first organizations to standardize and certify online courses.

Public Health’s Garland receives grant for Reimagine Reentry

Richard Garland, assistant professor of behavioral and community health sciences in the Graduate School of Public Health, has received a $1.5 million grant for three years from the Hillman Foundation for his program, Reimagine Reentry, for people returning home to Allegheny County after incarceration

The program is committed to reducing recidivism by offering holistic services to returning citizens, including case mentoring and management, workforce training, family reunification education and housing assistance planning in a state where 63 percent of parolees return to corrections within three years.

The program’s mission is to offer these resources to counteract systemic barriers and ensure the success of program participants. To enroll in the three-year program, applicants must obtain a referral from the state's Department of Corrections, submit an application and complete an interview.

Reimagine Reentry is in partnership with Operation Better Block, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and the Graduate School of Public Health. It is one of four programs that make up the Violence Prevention Initiative — a project dedicated to addressing community violence.

Garland leads this initiative with Steven Albert, professor of behavioral and community health sciences in the Graduate School of Public Health and the Philip B. Hallen Endowed Chair in Community Health and Social Justice.

GSPIA’s 412Connect project honored at conference

This year’s inaugural Conference on Equity and Access in Algorithms, Mechanisms and Optimization by the Association of Computing Machinery awarded one of two New Horizon Awards to the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs’ Sera Linardi and her colleagues, Alex DiChristofano, Michael Hamilton and Mara McCloud for their project, 412Connect: Bridging Students and Communities. The distinction recognizes those who successfully bridge research and practice. 

The 412Connect project is committed to building and leveraging online platforms to increase the visibility of Black-owned businesses in Pittsburgh and with local universities. According to 412Connect’s website, the team is “composed of Pittsburgh community activists, Pitt alumni, faculty and staff, and students across schools and degree programs in and outside of Pitt, united in our conviction of universities’ public service role.”

The conference is a product of the Mechanism Design for Social Good initiative and was held virtually in October. The event highlighted work that increases equity and access for historically disadvantaged and underserved communities through algorithms, optimization and mechanism design techniques.

Jarvis awarded funding to assess racial equity in children’s rehabilitation therapy

Jessica Jarvis, assistant professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in the School of Medicine, was awarded Gabriella E. Molnar-Swafford Pediatric PM&R Research Grant by the Foundation for Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation for her proposal entitled, “Equity in Rehabilitation Therapy Use During Pediatric Critical Care Among Children with Traumatic Brain Injury.”

She will be the principal investigator for a project that will assess racial and ethnic equity in rehabilitation therapy use during pediatric critical care among children with traumatic brain injuries in the 50-plus children’s hospitals participating in the Pediatric Health Information System.

Jarvis’ study will be a collaborative effort between several Pitt departments. She will be joined on the project by co-investigators Ericka L. Fink, associate professor of critical care medicine and pediatrics and Amy Houtrow, vice chair in the department of physical medicine and rehabilitation for pediatric rehabilitation medicine.

NSF grant will boost Pitt’s research computing resources

Chemistry associate professor Geoffrey Hutchison (picture), along with associate professors Lillian Chong in chemistry, Inanc Senocak in mechanical engineering and materials science, and David Koes in computational and systems biology, have landed a $1.2 million National Science Foundation award for new computing resources that will greatly boost the Center for Research Computing capabilities in speed, power, and scope.

Internal Pitt funding added to the grant creates a total of more than $1.5 million for new resources.

“This is not a grant to one researcher or one project but an investment in research itself. We don’t know how wide the impact will be over the life of the technology. The multiplier effect could be huge,” Hutchison said.

The grant enables a leap in technology based on state-of-the-art graphics processing units — GPUs, a technology originally developed for computer gaming and now widely adopted for artificial intelligence and machine learning. The new GPUs are twice as fast as the previous generation and up to 50 times faster than chips used in standard computing.

More than 30 existing research groups across the University — in chemistry, computational biology, materials science, psychology, astrophysics, weather forecasting, energy and sustainability — stand to immediately benefit from the new resources.

Read more on the Pitt Research website.

Kane-Gill awarded two grants to study acute kidney injury

Pitt Pharmacy professor Sandra Kane-Gill was recently awarded two grants from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

The first grant is for a project entitled, “Multi-hospital Implementation of an Electronic Decision Support System for Drug-associated AKI,” in which she is a co-principal investigator along with Pitt Pharmacy faculty members Colleen CulleyPamela Smithburger and Alexis Gaggini.

The project will assess the effectiveness of a clinical surveillance alert system augmented with real-time EMR predictive analytics to support a pharmacist-led intervention to reduce the progression and complications of drug-associated acute kidney injury. This work advances Kane-Gill’s research program theme of medication safety and nephrotoxin stewardship.

The second grant focuses on processes of care after acute kidney injury hospitalization, which have been found to be suboptimal — with lack of continuity of care, delayed follow-up, and suboptimal medication management exacerbating the risks of adverse outcomes.

American Physical Society recognizes Mugler and Paolone

Two Pitt physics and astronomy faculty members — Andrew Mugler and Vittorio Paolone — were honored by the American Physical Society for outstanding achievements in research, education, and public service.

Mugler, an assistant professor, received the APS 2022 Irwin Oppenheim Award for his work “Multicellular sensing at a feedback-induced critical point’ in Physical Review.

Professor Paolone was awarded the 2022 W.K.H. Panofsky Prize in Experimental Particle Physics for "the first direct observation of the tau neutrino through its charged-current interactions in an emulsion detector."

Pitt researchers awarded NIH High Risk, High Reward grants

Projects by five Pitt researchers in the School of Medicine were among the 106 grants awarded by the National Institutes of Health to support highly innovative and impactful biomedical, behavioral and social sciences research.

These grants — part of the High Risk, High Reward Research program — grants support transformative work that pushes the boundaries of knowledge.

“To have five of our faculty members recognized in a single year is, indeed, cause for celebration,” said Anantha Shekhar, senior vice chancellor for the health sciences and John and Gertrude Petersen Dean, School of Medicine. “These well-deserved awards recognize the outstanding potential of our early career investigators and highlight the academic environment at the University of Pittsburgh that fosters excellence in basic and clinical biomedical research.”

Among this year’s awardees were:

Jishnu Das, Department of Immunology

Christopher Donnelly, Department of Neurobiology

Yi-Nan Gong, Department of Immunology

Dwi Utami Kemaladewi, Department of Pediatrics

Guang Li, Department of Developmental Biology

Read more about their research on Pittwire.

GSPIA’s Kearns wins national teaching award

Kevin Kearns, a faculty member in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs since 1987, has received the Leslie A. Whittington Excellence in Teaching Award from the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration (NASPAA).

This award recognizes excellence in teaching public policy, public affairs or public administration over an extended time period, demonstrating outstanding contributions and sustained excellence through course content, course preparation, quality of advising impact, teaching innovation, mentoring and receipt of teaching awards.

Kearns is known for his expertise in strategic planning, nonprofit management and leadership. He has presented more than 100 executive seminars nationally and internationally promoting ethical leadership. Along with a Fulbright Fellowship to teach nonprofit management in the Czech Republic, he has lectured in Taiwan, Indonesia, Macedonia and Brazil.

He was nominated for the award by GSPIA Dean Carissa Slotterback in recognition of his many contributions to designing and teaching in the school’s curriculum in nonprofit organizations and management, his numerous GSPIA teaching awards and the Chancellor's Award for Distinguished Teaching, and his leadership of the Johnson Institute for Responsible Leadership and Hesselbein Leadership Forum.

Kearns will be recognized at the NASPAA Annual Conference virtual plenary meeting on Oct. 29.

Visit the GSPIA website to learn more.

Education’s P.R.I.D.E. expands to Philadelphia area

The Positive Racial Identity Development in Early Education (P.R.I.D.E.) program of the University of Pittsburgh School of Education will extend its work to the Philadelphia region. 

The program there will feature “train the trainer sessions.” Educators will learn to talk to children about race and how to better understand and embrace racial differences. 

A division in Pitt Education's Office of Child Development, P.R.I.D.E. helps Black children, from birth to age 8, develop a positive racial identity.

“We think P.R.I.D.E is needed everywhere Children of Color are located in the country,” program director Aisha White said. “Having a presence in Philadelphia, which has a Black population that exceeds the total Pittsburgh population, will give our growing project an important start in reaching a much larger audience.”

The expansion is funded by a grant from the William Penn Foundation, whose vision is for “all children from low-income families in Philadelphia to have high-quality educational opportunities that lead to improved life outcomes.”

Visit the School of Education to learn more.

Piotr Hajłasz

Math’s Hajłasz wins Poland’s Sierpiński Medal

Piotr Hajłasz, a professor and graduate director of the Department of Mathematics, is the 2021 recipient of Poland’s Sierpiński Medal.

The award is given to outstanding mathematicians with Polish associations. Hajłasz, who received his doctorate from the University of Warsaw, received this honor from his alma mater and the Polish Mathematical Society. The international award is the highest honor presented by the two institutions and has recognized outstanding mathematics contributors since 1974.

Hajłasz’s research focuses on analysis and partial differential equations, topology and differential geometry. His work has been published by the American Mathematical Society, the Cornell University-owned arXiv, an open-access repository of electronic preprints and post-prints, the University of Warsaw’s Institute of Applied Mathematics and more.

The award is in memory of Polish mathematician Wacław Sierpiński (1862-1962), renowned for his work in set theory, the theory of irrational numbers and the theory of numbers.

Paul Supowitz

Supowitz named chancellor’s deputy chief of staff for special projects

Paul Supowitz, vice chancellor for Community and Governmental Relations, will transition into a new role in the Office of the Chancellor. As deputy chief of staff for special projects, he will focus on University priorities that sit at the intersection of economic and community development, civic partnerships and other external initiatives.

Supowitz joined Pitt in 2002 and has worked with lawmakers, leaders and neighbors in Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and beyond to advance the University’s mission. He will continue serving as vice chancellor until a replacement is named.

Martin Weiss

Pitt professors part of $25 million grant-funded project on radio waves

A new $25 million grant from the National Science Foundation will fund researchers from 29 organizations — including two from Pitt — developing new approaches and techniques for divvying up the valuable and highly contested real estate of radio waves that connect many of our devices.

Martin Weiss (pictured), a professor in the School of Computing and Information, leads the program’s economics and policy working group, which will study social and economic factors like how telecommunications companies share spectrum space and the regulations that govern the technology. The group’s other goal is training the next generation of spectrum experts with a focus on underrepresented groups in the industry.

He and Ilia Murtazashvili, associate professor in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs also will pursue specific research projects, including one focusing on enforcing regulations, which Weiss says could open the door to more cooperation.

“The economic stakes are very high,” Weiss said. “We’re not going to get to a world where people are sharing spectrum more freely until there are good enforcement mechanisms in place to ensure that people can protect what they want, what they need and what’s important to them.”

Randi Congleton

Chatham VP named Pitt’s AVC for equity and inclusion

Randi Congleton, vice president for equity and inclusion and chief diversity officer at Chatham University, has been named assistant vice chancellor for equity and inclusion in Pitt’s Office for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.

She will join the University in November 2021 to provide oversight to advance strategic diversity and inclusion initiatives and provide guidance on matters as they pertain to equity, diversity and inclusion.

In her scholarship and career, Congleton focuses on the ways in which institutional policies and practices inhibit thriving, full equity, inclusion and justice for underserved communities. Her work also brings people together to unpack challenging social justice conversations and asks individuals and teams to think through systems challenges to improve equity outcomes.

Congleton earned her Ph.D. in education and organizational leadership at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, an M.S. in Community Services from Michigan State University and a B.S. in agricultural and extension education from Penn State University.

In 2019, Congleton was named a Woman of Excellence by the New Pittsburgh Courier. She is also a member of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education and an alumna of its Standards of Professional Practice Institute. Congleton serves on the Black Girl Equity Alliance Advisory Board, the research arm of Gwen’s Girls and the GED Testing Service Transformation Team.

Darris Means selected for Rockefeller Fellowship to study rural education

Darris Means, an associate professor in the School of Education, has been selected as a 2021 Richard P. Nathan Policy Fellow of the Rockefeller Institute of Government.

Through the one-year fellowship, Means will conduct state policy-focused research related to rural education and equity. Based on this work, he will create a report and deliver a public presentation.

"Rural communities are sometimes an afterthought with some of the policies that do exist," he said. Means seeks to change that.

"I will review state policy related to higher education retention, attainment and graduation to better understand how inclusive state policy is of rural education, rural communities and rural students. And, based on state policies, how might they support and/or hinder educational equity for rural college students."

In addition to the Rockefeller fellowship, Means was recently named as a 2021 Dean's Scholar in Equity, Justice and Rural Education at Pitt Education.

Read more about Means.

Pitt Libraries a contributor to Google Arts & Culture site

Content from Pitt’s Archives and Special Collections have been featured in a digital exposition hosted by Google Arts & Culture. Pittsburgh joins just four other American cities in being featured on the prestigious platform, which is free to the public.

“Pittsburgh embodies the American work ethic: Grit, know-how and a can-do attitude,” the site says.

Contributions from the University Library System (ULS) include exhibits focusing on the Cathedral of Learning, the evolution of artistic representation of the Point and photos from a peace march in the city following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. ULS joins several other local organizations include the Carnegie Museum of Art and the August Wilson African American Cultural Center to proudly display Pittsburgh on such a prominent global platform.

Read more in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Rory Cooper

Rory Cooper receives Science and Society Award

Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Honor Society, has honored Pitt’s Rory Cooper with the John P. McGovern Science and Society Award. Recipients of this award represent individuals who have supported research, the communication of science and the impact of science on society.

Presentation of the award will take place at the virtual Sigma Xi Annual Meeting and Student Research Conference on Nov. 4 to 7. Cooper will present talk, "Participatory Action Design and Engineering: Forging a New Freedom!" that will suggest pathways to expand the talent pool of scientists and engineers. Cooper will also speak about the work that he and his colleagues are doing to create technologies and systems for older adults and people with disabilities.

Cooper is the founding director and VA senior research career scientist of the Human Engineering Research Laboratories at Pitt. He is also an elected fellow of the National Academy of Inventors and has authored or co-authored more than 300 peer-reviewed journal publications.

Keisha Blain

Keisha Blain named to New American National Fellows class

Keisha N. Blain, associate professor of history in the Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences, has joined the New America National Fellows Class of 2022. New America is an organization committed to investing in thinkers who generate ideas that impact and spark new conversations about the most pressing issues of our day.

Blain is currently a fellow for the Institute for Advanced Study, one of the world's leading centers for theoretical research and intellectual inquiry, whose previous members and faculty include Albert Einstein and J. Robert Oppenheimer.

Her 2018 book "Set the World on Fire: Black Nationalist Woman and the Global Struggle for Freedom" won several awards, and in 2021, she and Ibram X. Kendi edited the collection, "Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619 -2019.” She has a new book due out this month — “Until I Am Free: Fannie Lou Hamer’s Enduring Message to America” (Beacon Press), about the early civil rights leader.

Blain is also an opinion columnist for MSNBC.